Rory McIlroy and Justin Rose both got their PGA Tour seasons off to a steady start with strong opening rounds at the Frys.com Open.
McIlroy opened with a four-under 68 as the highest-ranked player in the field, while Rose finished a stroke further up the leaderboard on a morning of scoring-friendly conditions in the Californian sunshine.
Beginning on the back nine, the world No 3 ended up behind a tree on his way to a bogey-five at the 13th, but bounced back by firing his tee shot at the short 15th to within four feet and sliding in the birdie putt.
Back-to-back birdies around the turn lifted McIlroy up the leaderboard, with a 10-foot gain at the fifth followed by another at the eighth to get the four-time major champion within five strokes of early pacesetter Brendan Steele.
“It’s definitely better from tee to green than I was at the Tour Championship a couple of weeks ago,” McIlroy said. “It’s definitely a step in the right direction.
“I didn’t hole many putts. I holed a few, but if I can get the putter going over the next three days hopefully I can get up the leaderboard a bit.”
Rose also made his only blemish of the round at the 13th after failing to save par from 11 feet, although responded with a hat-trick of gains from the 15th.
Having been unable to convert a couple of birdie chances early in his second nine, Rose nailed a 15-foot gain at the fourth and another from a few feet closer at the next, before breaking in to the top 10 by picking up a further stroke at the eighth.
Early leader Steele reached the turn in just 29 after a string of five consecutive birdies on the back nine, eventually closing a bogey-free 63 to hold the early advantage at Silverado CC.
The season-opening event comes just 18 days after Jordan Spieth’s record-breaking FedExCup win at the Tour Championship, with the PGA Tour’s early tournaments often struggling to attract a high-profile field.
Watch the Frys.com Open live throughout the week on Sky Sports 4 – your home golf